Macau’s Health Bureau has so far only approved requests for the installation of 49 upgraded smoking lounges inside the city’s gaming venues, out of a total of 404 requests the bureau had received by September 28 – the deadline for such paperwork to be submitted. So said Tang Chi Ho, the head of the bureau’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Office, in comments to local media on Wednesday. After January 1, old-style smoking lounges will no longer be allowed.
The 404 aggregate requests had been made for the equivalent number of smoking lounges that had already been technically upgraded by local casinos in anticipation of conforming with new city-wide rules, but did not yet have the government’s official blessing for the changes, according to media reports. These 404 bids were filed from 27 gaming venues in the city.
All Macau gaming venue managements wanting to continue to offer on-site smoking to patrons must apply for the right to operated the new, higher-standard lounges, said to have better air extraction equipment than mandated under the current regulatory regime. From January 1, 2019, only authorised, enhanced, lounges will be permitted in the local market.
In his remarks to media, Mr Tang noted that out of the 404 requests filed for upgraded smoking lounges, more than 200 required further documentation from the relevant casino operators.
The tobacco control office chief also stated that his department had received an additional 33 requests for upgraded smoking lounges after the September 28 official deadline. The government had said previously that any requests received after that deadline might not be processed in time for the full implementation of the new smoking lounge standards on January 1.
Mr Tang spoke to media following on-site inspections on Wednesday by government officials, of two upgraded smoking lounges installed respectively on the mass gaming floor of Studio City as well as at Suncity VIP gaming club at the Venetian Macao hotel resort on Cotai. The Health Bureau noted to GGRAsia that the two places were among the 49 upgraded smoking lounges already receiving official clearance.
Alexis Tam Chon Weng, Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture – who participated in the on-site visits – also spoke to the media on the sidelines of Mr Tang’s press briefing. Mr Tam said he saw “satisfactory” compliance regarding the upgraded smoking lounges visited in the two properties, in terms of the air extraction systems used and the distance of the smoking lounges from gambling facilities.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters